Here's What Your Patients Think about Obamacare
Market research sometimes uncovers surprising results about what your patients think about health care, and researchers are always impressed with how quickly attitudes can change, especially along party lines.
Democrats breathed a sigh of relief as the number of Obamacare signups surged past 7.1 million by the end of March, and, before tendering her resignation earlier this year, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said she expected this number to rise to more than 7.5 million by year’s end.
But do these figures show a softening in public opinion toward Obamacare or simple acquiescence?
Following this unexpected denouement, Reuters and Ipsos conducted a poll to test the waters, determining whether or not public opinion had truly changed in favor of the Affordable Care Act.
On April 15, 2014, Reuters posted the findings.
According to Ipsos, about one-third of respondents said they had come to prefer the Democrats’ plan for health care over Republican alternatives. The poll does demonstrate an uptick in support for the Democratic plan, as compared to a similar survey taken in February, but the results may not be as straightforward as you might expect.
Why the Shift in Numbers?
At first glance, it might be tempting to see these results as a directional shift in public opinion — a group of Republicans and Independents eversing their beliefs about the Affordable Care Act. But the reality is less dramatic.
According to Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson, the shift in the polls reflects a growing confidence among Democrats who had previously been wary of the health reforms championed by their party, and the DNC has changing media coverage to thank for that.
"It’s not that independents are moving [toward support of the Affordable Care Act], it's that Democrats who had previously been a little bit ambivalent in their support are coming back to the party,” Jackson said. “In the last couple of weeks, as the exchanges hit their goals, news coverage has been more positive and the support of the Democratic Party on this issue has rebounded,” he explained.
Therefore, the shift is largely due to Democrats’ growing enthusiasm for the Affordable Care Act and not necessarily a gain with independents or the GOP. It does, however, still represent an eleventh hour victory for the much beleaguered Obamacare.
Yet attitudes could have easily shifted in the other direction — and could easily shift away from favoring the legislation once again.
The Ups and Downs of Public Opinion
In 2010, before the legislation was enacted, public opinion about Obamacare was evenly split, according to a report published by Stanford University.
In early 2013, before most of the consumer-facing rules of the ACA kicked in, the c2b Consumer Diagnostic also found a split in public opinion regarding the ACA:
Those numbers took a hit when the buggy Healthcare.gov began its fateful rollout. Server problems and login troubles proved a frustration many Americans weren’t willing to overlook. Then to complicate matters further, Sebelius stepped down from her position as the spearhead of the Affordable Care Act soon after the signup period ended.
Democrats have struggled with sagging public opinion since the passage of Obamacare, and despite the gain in sign-ups, many Americans remain unconvinced of the long-term viability of the legislation. Though Republican have debated several alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, the fact is that neither party has been able to develop a strategy with bipartisan appeal.
Opinions about Obamacare will continue to shift as the next wave of open enrollment begins in 2015 and the consequences of the Affordable Care Act become more evident. But, for now, it seems that the public is resigned to riding out the ACA legislation.
And market research will continue to measure the attitudes and acceptance of the Affordable Care Act in the months and years that follow.